The Grant Boys: Fully-Loaded Legacy
A few months ago, we spent the morning with the Costa Mesa Historical Society to delve more deeply into Costa Mesa Past. As we enjoyed old photos, and even older stories, one name kept popping up in our exploration of local legacy: The Grant Boys.
We’ve all seen the clapboard, wild-west storefront (complete with hitchin’ post) on Newport Boulevard as you head from the 55 Freeway to the beach – but have you been inside? Dating back to 1949, this one-of-a-kind business is a living piece of Costa Mesa history; full of character and stuffed to the gills with all the gear you need for fishing, camping, hiking, hunting or a myriad of other outdoorsy endeavors.
We sat down with Grant Boys President, Randy Garell, in his rustic, lodge-like office above the store – to get to the gist of Grant’s.
“My father-in-law, Buddy Grant, started the business in 1949,” Garell began. “In the early 1950s, there were two big things going on in Orange County that were good for Grant’s: Disneyland was being built and the Santa Ana Freeway was coming through. The men working on those projects were required to wear Levi’s jeans and steel-toed boots, and we were one of the few places to carry both.
“Buddy eventually had three sons and a daughter. There was Michael, who was the oldest; Steve, who’s an optometrist in Costa Mesa; Bruce is a optometrist in Santa Ana; and then Alexa, my wife, is the baby. All the kids, at one time or another, worked in the business; grandkids, too! At one time we had three generations working here.
“I started here because I was dating the boss’s daughter,” said Garell with a laugh. “I was fifteen, I was in love and I needed the money. Eventually, I married Alexa and we’ve been joined at the hip ever since.”
The Garells, Randy and Alexa, now run the store together; managing the friendly staff and huge inventory with seeming ease. During our interview, Garell was peppered with calls and pages, but he presided over management-plus-interview like a seasoned pro. And that’s no small feat when you realize the true scope of the store.
Room after room, department after department, Grant’s 12,000 square feet unfold before you like a outdoorsman’s (or woman’s) paradise. Upon your first visit, prepare to set adrift in a sea of fishing rods, Bowie knives, sleeping bags, lanterns, flashlights, Carhartt clothing, UGG boots, Coleman coolers, Columbia gear, solar showers, duffel bags, mosquito netting, pepper spray, ammo, shotguns, rifles, handguns, water filters, tackle boxes, Dickies overalls, Gore-Tex jackets, fishing hooks, Stetson hats and Levi’s denim in every shape and size… the full extent of their inventory could fill a hundred articles! All amusingly merchandised with that famous Grant Boys sense of humor.
If we could sum up our take on the people at The Grant Boys, it would be, “Work hard, laugh harder.”
Not just good humored, but good natured, too; the staff will cheerfully help you navigate the daunting inventory. They are happy to let you touch, hold and handle their products to get a real feel for the thing you want to buy.
“Retail is a tough business, especially at this small, independent level,” said Garell. “Especially with the internet. But I’m of a generation that still likes to shop in person. We like to try before we buy and see the quality of what we are going to get. Our local customers are like that. They get the value of shopping in person for the things we carry.
“There’s a lot of gun stores out there that will sell you the most expensive gun on the shelf. We like to make sure that you get what’s right for you. I enjoy doing that part of it. I enjoy talking to people and making sure that they’re getting something that fits their needs and personality.
“We have such a great, local customer base in Costa Mesa and people have been shopping here for so long, sometimes those sales turn into friendships.”
“With such a long history, this is a multi-generational place,” said Garell. “Not just the owners but the customers, too.
“We have guys that come in talking about how their parents brought them here when they were kids. I can’t tell you how many times a week I hear somebody telling me, ‘This is where I got my first pair of Levi’s,’ or ‘Dad used to bring us in here for camping gear,’ or ‘I bought my first gun here.’
“In the time since I first started working here at fifteen, the boulevard has gotten wider – and businesses have come and gone – but the citizens of Costa Mesa are very loyal and that has never changed. The people really are the best thing about Costa Mesa. I gotta say, our customers are nice and we don’t get too many people in here giving us trouble.
“But then again,” added Garell wryly, “Everybody’s always pretty polite in a gun store.” ♥
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